The ‘outstanding’ schools in Norfolk not inspected for a decade
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Three Norfolk schools which hold an outstanding Ofsted rating have not had full inspections for more than a decade, it can be revealed.
North Walsham Infant and Nursery School has not been inspected since it was judged to be outstanding in February 2007, while Woodside Primary and Nursery School in Hethersett has only had one short monitoring visit since it was given the top grade by inspectors in July 2008.
Wymondham College was judged to be outstanding in November 2007. While it has not had an educational inspection since then - bar a monitoring visit in March 2011 - it has been subject to further Ofsted inspections due to its boarding facilities, which have also returned the top rating.
Of the 48 schools in Norfolk judged to be outstanding, 29 have not been inspected in the past five years.
Under the Education Act 2011, outstanding schools are exempt from regular Ofsted inspections.
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However, in May this year HM Inspector Dan Lambert said Ofsted felt the rule had "had its day".
Writing for the Ofsted blog, he said parents, teachers, leaders and governors liked the outstanding grade and its "aspirational" quality, but many felt exemption from regular inspection "is not necessarily in the school's or the children's best interests".
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The Department for Education (DfE) has heeded these concerns. In a raft of new measures announced in September to "boost school standards", the DfE revealed that outstanding schools would lose their exemption from regular inspection.
In a statement the department said: "Some outstanding schools have not been inspected for a decade and this programme will ensure that parents have up-to-date information about the quality of education their children are receiving, and that standards remain high."
Dan Browning, headteacher at Wymondham College, said: "Unlike other state schools that are currently rated as outstanding, as a boarding school, Ofsted have a statutory duty to inspect us every three years under the social care inspection framework. This is robustly focussed on safeguarding, leadership and the overall progress that students make.
"We were delighted that Ofsted concluded in May 2019 that Wymondham College remains outstanding."
Angela Jermy, headteacher at Hethersett Woodside Primary and Nursery School, said the school had "changed and evolved" since it was judged outstanding.
She said: "Hethersett Woodside is still an outstanding school and this was verified in 2017 following a monitoring visit under section eight of the Education Act 2005.
"We work closely with advisers from VNET [Viscount Nelson Education Network] as well as networking with local schools to monitor our school's judgement. A strong governing board is key to ensure we are challenged and held to account for our school's judgement.
"In lieu of a full Ofsted inspection we have school systems in place to regularly self-review, enabling us to challenge and maintain standards."
Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat spokesman for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: "We need to press the reset button on school inspection and give the system the money it needs to help schools to grow.
"We also need to bring schools back closer to local people. They are the heart of our communities. They play such an important role in developing our children, equipping them for the future. We can't afford to get this wrong."